Windows Vista is an operating system by Microsoft. It was released worldwide on 2007-01-30. It replaces Windows XP and was replaced by Windows 7. It reached Pre-RTM on 2006-11-08, Support for Windows Vista ended on 2017-04-11.
The development of Windows Vista has gone through many stages, starting from 2001 (under the codename Whistler +1) to it's final release in November 2006. Windows Vista (or 'Longhorn' as it was originally known) was intended as a bridging release between 'Whistler' (Windows XP) and the later version of Windows 'Blackcomb' (which much later became Windows 7). Feature creep became an issue as development progressed, and stability was a major issue throughout development. As a result, development of Windows Codename "Longhorn" was reset, soon after the compilation of build 4093. These are the post-reset Longhorn/Vista builds. The original code base for Longhorn was Windows Server 2003 Release Candidate 1. Omega-13 builds also use Windows Server 2003 as a base, however the build used as the base is from the Service Pack 1 branch, which is a somewhat more stable codebase. In April 2005, a pre-beta build was released to testers (build 5048). This build showed the progress made since the reset, and also proved much more stable than previous builds. Build 5112 (Beta 1) was released to the public soon afterwards, and showcased an early version of the Aero interface, as well as many stability improvements over XP. Over the next year, many builds were pushed to testers in a public beta program. The final build out to Public preview testers was Release Candidate 2 (build 5744). The RTM build was build 6000.16386.
A total of 2 Service Packs were released for the Windows Vista operating system. Service Pack 1 was made available to MSDN subscribers on 2008-02-15, and was released to the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update on 2008-03-18. Service Pack 2 was released to manufacturing on 2009-04-28, and released to the Microsoft Download Center and Windows Update on 2009-05-26. In addition, Microsoft released the Platform Update for Windows Vista on 2009-10-27, which was comprised of major new Windows 7 components and updated runtime libraries. The Platform Update requires Service Pack 2 prior to installation.
Windows Vista came in many editions. Unlike Windows XP , there was no special edition for Media Center and 64-bit capability, since these features were included in at least one of the consumer editions. Windows Vista also did not have an embedded version, perhaps due to the considerable grunt required to run optimally.
- Starter This edition is intended for emerging markets and low-cost PC's. As in XP , the 3-program limit was there , and only 1GB RAM was accepted. Other software restrictions applied as well. This version is hence not available in 64-bit.
- Home Basic Found in low cost to mid-end , this version of Windows Vista does not fully have Aero(though it has DWM) , and hence does not have effects like transparency and 3D Flip. Windows Media Center is also dropped from this build. Parental Controls is included however. It does not have the hardware and 3-program limit.
- Home Premium The consumer version of Windows Vista , this version includes full Aero functionality and Windows Media Center. It also includes Premium Games(eg - Inkball).
- Business The business oriented version of Windows Vista , it contains several features like full RDP(client/host) capability, Group Policy and domain join ability. However , Windows Media Center and Parental Controls are not included, and Premium Games are disabled by default.
- Ultimate The top consumer variant of Windows Vista , it is a merger of the features included Windows Vista Home Premium and Business. Bitlocker is included in this version.
- Enterprise The business variant of Windows Vista. It is similar to Ultimate, but without Windows Media Center and includes enterprise-specific tools.
Note that certain features(like Aero or TV support) may require premium/different/upgraded hardware and so may not be available on all PCs's.
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This is for Pre-RC1 Builds to Pre-RTM (except 6000.16385)
These builds are post-reset Longhorn builds, primarily focused on reintegrating features from the pre-reset builds while maintaining stability. Most of these builds are similar to Windows XP in overall look and feel. Few builds from this stage of development have been released, officially or otherwise.
These builds are the official Vista Beta 1 builds. They contain remnants of the Longhorn branding, and are mostly stable.
Pre-Beta 2 Fork
These builds were released or documented during the evolution of Vista from Beta 1 to Beta 2-quality.
These builds were mainly intended for consumers, and were considered beta-quality. However, these builds can be somewhat unstable, and are not yet fully feature-complete.
These builds consist of interim builds designed to indicate progress to close partners and trusted testers. They are generally more stable than Beta 2.
Release Candidate 1 was feature complete, and contained most of the UI and features intended for RTM.
This is an interim build, intended for close partners, which is actually a RTM Escrow build. Therefore, the name of RC2 is actually a misnomer.